A JOURNEY IN RUNNING, LIVING, LAUGHING AND LOVING

Damage control

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Today one of my students told me she doesn't think she's pretty. She said that she got teased a lot in elementary and middle school about the way she looks and so now, even when her parents and sisters tell her she's pretty, she doesn't believe them. I wanted to shake her and yell, "You're pretty! You're pretty!" But I also know it takes a long time to believe something about yourself, especially when you've spent years thinking the opposite. 

After my JRA diagnosis, I think I convinced myself that I couldn't be active. I think I believed that I was doing the best possible thing for my joints -- resting them -- instead of really moving them. A small part of me told myself that my body wasn't as good as everyone else's -- my joints were damaged and defunct. I guess it's not the same, because no one really told me I couldn't do it -- couldn't be active. But, for some reason, for the longest time, I really believed it. 

I've never had to struggle much with big weight gains or weight losses, but I have struggled with my weight. Since high school, I have stayed in the same 20 pound range, even when on mega doses of steroids. Near the end of college, I was at the high end of that range. When I became a Jazzercise instructor a year later, I was at the low end. I have gone back to the high end and back to the low end twice since then. 

On Thanksgiving morning, I weighed myself, and there it was. 

The number that popped up in front of me was my I'll-never-weigh-that-much-again goal weight. I think any of us who are diet or weight conscious have this number in mind... "I mean, ideally I'd REALLY like to be ___, but I'd be happy if I could just get to ___." I didn't necessarily start running or half marathon training to lose weight, but it's been part of the journey. 

Although I got excited for a minute, it didn't give me the thrill I thought it would. Yep, I reached a number on the scale. But it doesn't make me a better teacher, a kinder friend, a more loving daughter. It doesn't make me a better athlete or a better person. It doesn't make me much of anything, really. It's just that: a number on the scale. 

For years, I told myself, "You can't be fit." I'd never been fit. I didn't think it mattered to me. 

But, it DOES matter. It matters because I want to be active and moving on these joints as long as possible. It matters to me because I want to be able to fix and lift and move stuff in my house without having to call someone to do it (unless it's a couch or something. Seriously, I'm not Super Woman). It matters because I want to be able to run after the children I'm going to have someday. It matters because it's what I want. It matters more because it's what I NEED. It's not a number on the scale -- it's being active and fit and healthy.

I keep thinking about my student tonight... about how she feels like she "isn't" something. I think about how many times we have to hear the opposite of something in order to undo the negative message in our heads. I don't know how many years it will take for my student to wake up and believe she's pretty. I know it took me a long time to wake up and realize my body wasn't damaged or decrepit -- just different than other people's. 

It's true, you know, we are often our own worst enemies. And maybe I can't stop the voice inside my students' head. But, I can tell her she's pretty, and hope she remembers that, just as I can tell myself that my body isn't damaged, and hope I never forget it.

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